Hybrid Peppers... One Year Later

In college I majored in biology.

Majoring in biology meant a lot of time spent in labs and what I learned is that I didn't have the patience to work in a physical science.

Everything takes so long and had to be so exact... There would be instructions like:

  1. Mix an agarose gel and let it sit until it was solid
  2. Mix some NaOH tablets with water
  3. Shake until it dissolves. (lots of shaking)
  4. Submerge the agarose gel in the basic solution
  5. Prick your finger, take a drop of blood and put it in a small channel in the gel
  6. Put a very specific electric current across the gel
  7. Wait exactly 60 minutes
  8. Wash the gel in Ethidium bromide
  9. Make sure you don't get any on your hands because it's a mutagen.
  10. Say "Shit!" and go wash your hands really well.
  11. Take slices of the gel and see if any of them are now shaped like a comet.
  12. By now 6 hours has gone by, and you're ready to get a result. You look at the assay and find nothing. It's like you forgot to put the blood in the agar or something. WTF?!? You repeat the experiment once a day for 3 weeks and finally realize that because of a small math error you were mixing 10x too much NaOH in the water. It totally explains why it was so hard to get it to dissolve and why you spent so much time shaking that stupid mixing bottle. The resulting solution was this syrup like solution that has a PH so high it frequently etched the glass stopper on the mixing container shut and more importantly was dissolving your blood cells as soon as they hit the liquid.
  13. Realize you just wasted 3 weeks accomplishing nothing.
  14. Get drunk.

Shortly after college I switched my career into software where it's much easier to get quick consistent answers. Even so, I still get a kick out of a real world experiment from time to time. This latest one only took a year. There was a lot of step #13 while we waited.

The Experiment

Last October Alex and I discovered a possible cross pollinated pepper in our garden. Alex kept the seeds from the mystery pepper.

My theory was that if we had a hybrid pepper that at least some of the seeds should produce plants that in turn had some form of hybrid peppers, or no peppers at all. Basically I was expecting to reproduce a Gregor Mendel pea experiment with peppers or to end up with mule peppers.


Because Alex kept the seeds, we were able to plant them again this year. "We" meaning my Uncle Sam, who graciously accepted half of the seeds as a gift, planted them and then gave the seedlings to us after we moved. In all we had six pepper plants that lived on our back deck.

There was no control. As a matter of fact, we put one of the subject pepper plants next to a banana pepper plant that I bought at Wallmart. Suck on that scientific method!

Five of the plants turned out normal Green Bell Peppers. Very tasty. One plant, the one next to the banana pepper plant, produced a mix of Bell Peppers and Giant Chili peppers. This is a picture of the plant taken outside in early October.


As the weather turned cold I brought the plant inside to keep the experiment going. This was taken in mid October.


Variation on Step #12
At this point I acknowledge that my aggressive disregard for any form of control leaves me, a year later, with one of two answers: Either my hypothesis was right, or this year I crossed banana peppers with bell peppers, and last year all I had was a red bell pepper.

Having more or less wasted a year I proceed to step #13. I have a drink, wait a few minutes, and then send another drink down to check on the first. Those two didn't report back, so I commandeered a bigger glass and sent the equivalent of a battalion to see to the first two drinks well being. 15 minutes later the voices in my head reported that all was well.

The older I get the harder it is to recover from step #13. It's a good thing I got out of biology when I did.

Practical Upshot
There is no practical upshot of having giant chili peppers. Like their parents, these peppers are way too hot to actually eat. Perhapes next time I properly execute a step #13 I'll try eating them again. For now they sit in a cabinet like mutant biological WMDs.